JOZY ALTIDORE has outlined the extent of his disappointment at missing out on last weekend’s Capital One Cup final, and admitted he finds it easier to play for the United States than for Sunderland at the moment.
Despite having played in every game leading up to the League Cup final against Manchester City, Altidore was surprisingly axed from the 18-man match-day squad, with manager Gustavo Poyet preferring to name both Steven Fletcher and Ignacio Scocco on the substitutes’ bench.
Quite where that leaves the striker’s Sunderland future remains to be seen, although he is expected to be involved in some capacity when the Black Cats take on Hull City in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.
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If he plays at the KC Stadium, Altidore will have to put his weekend dismay behind him, something that will not be easy given the depth of his disappointment at missing out on what would have been a first appearance at Wembley.
And with his goalscoring record showing just two goals in 32 appearances since last summer’s £6.5m move from AZ Alkmaar, the 24-year-old admits he is struggling to display his best form in a Sunderland shirt.
“At Sunderland right now, it’s difficult,” said Altidore, who played for the United States as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Ukraine in Cyprus on Wednesday. “It’s a difficult team to play for and we’re not playing as well as anybody at the club would like.
“But we need to put our heads down and keep fighting so I can get back in the team and hopefully get my place on the plane to Brazil (for the World Cup finals).
“I feel like the players know my strengths more (in the United States team) and it’s where I’m most comfortable, sure.
“I’ve been faring better with the national team over the past year and I want to keep that going because it means a lot to me to play well for my country.”
While few people expected Altidore to start in Sunday’s final, even fewer envisaged him missing out on the squad entirely.
For all his failings in front of goal, the American had been Poyet’s first choice to lead the line for the majority of the season, yet he missed out on a Capital One Cup loser’s medal while his team-mates enjoyed one of the most high-profile days of their career.
“To not be able to play in a final like that was a big disappointment for me,” he admitted. “But the gaffer felt that there were people who deserved to be there more than I did.
“But hey, this is life and I have to move on and get better. It’s nothing personal, you can’t look at it that way. I need to get my head down and work hard.”
It remains to be seen whether Altidore is deemed surplus to requirements in the summer, although the striker is far from the only Sunderland player facing an uncertain future.
A large section of Poyet’s squad are out of contract at the end of the season, with the club’s loan players also due to return to their permanent employers.
That will mean Marcos Alonso rejoining Fiorentina, but having enjoyed his time on Wearside, the Spanish left-back would consider an offer to return to Wearside on a permanent basis.
“I’m very happy here at the moment, with the manager, the rest of the team, the staff, everything,” said Alonso. “I’m playing and that’s the main thing.
“I have two more years in Italy, so I will have to go back at the end of the season. I will have to do that. But what happens in the summer beyond that, I don’t know. I’m not thinking about that, I’m just enjoying my time here.”